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Archive Entries for June 2007

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Saturday June 30, 2007

Books of the Month

I'm not a great bookworm but I thought about adding a "stuff wot I am reading" list in the sidebar. As my sidebars are overly cluttered already, and its not very craft related, I decided it might be a better as a category in my blog. I have pretty mainstream interests in literature - I doubt you will find an eclectic inspirational set of works that you never heard of before but - if you find you like what I like (which you will swiftly discover is twee crime novels) then there may be the odd previously unconsidered title here.

Add to this that I'm a slow reader so there may be months when nothing appears but... here we are for June:

  • Blue Shoes and Happiness Alexander McCall Smith
    The usual charming fare about the straight-thinking lady detective and her agency.
  • Black Book Ian Rankin
    About number six in the series featuring the Edinburgh detective, John Rebus. I heard Ian Rankin say that Jekyll and Hyde was the inspiration for his first book Knots and Crosses, where he had two characters - one good the other bad versions of the same person sharing the same (SAS) roots - he was surprised to hear that from reviewers that he had written a crime novel. Before I knew about John Rebus and Gordon Reeve, I listened to "Blood Hunt" as a talking book (read by that genius Christian Rodska - "versatile British actor"); it featured a different version of Gordon Reeve who had previously played Hyde to Rebus's Jekyll. Blood Hunt as a talking book was utterly gripping and I can thoroughly recommend it - Ian Rankin wrote it under the pen name Jack Harvey.
  • A Tale Etched in Blood and a Thick Black Pencil Christopher Brookmyre
    First brought to my attention by my friend Helen (like much of my diet of crime) with what I think was his first book "Quite Ugly One Morning". I was slightly disappointed with "The Sacred Art of Stealing" but this book is very appealing. The subject focussed a lot on children as they went through school, finally brought together again as adults - a kind of "we are what life makes us" moral tale. However, I found it particularly strange that all these childhood memories were so familiar, when you consider we are talking about kids (a lot about boys) in a Scottish school set in an era about 20 years after my own schooldays.

Posted on June 30, 2007 at 10:54 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Wednesday June 27, 2007

Greener grass

I am a bit tired of current projects (and some got themselves finished even!) - and in need of some mindless stuff to work on while traveling, or in front of the TV - so I have kicked off a few new things.

CableSocks.jpg George expressed an interest in "perhaps more socks" or "just some socks" and as he seems so fond of his woollen Web-of-Wool socks these days, I thought I would try knitting some "proper" mens socks (circa 1950 maybe) in sober manly colours for his birthday. I will try to use up some of the Patons Nylox from the attic/eBay purchases - but to start with, I want to knit black, which I don't have. I saw recently that Sirdar now make a 4ply sock wool (strange really as in my local store it is only stocked in boring mens sock colours but... good for my purpose).

Leaf.jpg For myself, I finally dug out some excellent purple heathery colour (vintage) wool to knit the embossed leaves socks that I had previously attempted with a self-striping wool before I decided it was not suitable. They look really pretty, and I am really enjoying knitting them.

MaidenOver.jpg And last but not least: while we were in France Lloyd (our neighbour) expressed an interest in having a cricket sweater. He said "without sleeves" and then muttered something about being more likely to get it without sleeves, which considering he doesn't know me I thought was rather presumptuous....! He plays cricket every weekend (although I suspect there is a femme fatale - or it is to be hoped not actually fatale - at the bottom of it all), and is such a nice chap I am delighted to oblige. Even better it struck me that I could use some of the huge collection of Guernsey wool I was unable to stop myself collecting; I have a lot of smaller amounts - not-enough-for-a-whole-sweater amounts (or as advertised "enough for a child's guernsey"!) - and I found 400g of Wendy guernsey in ecru which should work out fine - despite finding that one of the balls is not actually the same dye lot (!). As you can see I have made a start...

Posted on June 27, 2007 at 2:05 PM. Category: Knitting.

Monday June 25, 2007

Whether there will be any weather... The Phantom Tollbooth

We spent the last couple of days trying to work in the garden. It looks pretty awful (if you count stuff growing like mad as "awful") but we have been severely hampered by continual sudden and torrential downpours. We managed to weed the paths and beds - pretty well I thought as we had to keep scampering for cover - but when we scampered so did the entire complement of household pets, (OK, just a cat and a dog), pell-mell into the house - mud and all.

Mowing such wet grass was just impossible, and then made absolutely impossible by the lawnmower exploding a number of springs and wires into the undergrowth, never to be recovered. [Monsieur Lawnmower Man has agreed to remove the beast and mend it while we are away.]

The good news is that the raspberry bed has also exploded (within the strict confines of its wooden border) - but alas I forgot to snap it for the record, (the little cat will be mortified as she spent hours working on it). Many nettles have appeared in the grass (which will be mown!) but none has dared to appear in the bed itself. The raspberries are fruiting already and we ate them every day - and even better we find that our numerous cherry trees have decided to produce this year - but tantalisingly, most of the fruit is way, way out of reach! The ones we managed to gather were excellent.

Posted on June 25, 2007 at 6:43 PM. Category: France.

Sunday June 24, 2007

Debout, debout, debout!

And so we come to the main event for the weekend - Peter turned 50 in April and he and Ava organised a splendid party to celebrate. The food was fantastic and all produced by Ava and friends.


As cool as you can look with an "air" guitar:



And the memorable "chanson paillarde", which seems designed to slaughter the celebrant in the shortest possible time.

debout.jpg Ceux qui sont nés aus mois d'avril
Debout, debout, debout!
Prenez votre verre à la main
Et buvez le jusqu'à la fin.

La fin, la fin, la fin, la fin.....

Ceux qui sont nés aus mois de juin....
You get the idea?

[This was Janvier - to which Ava admitted but I am ashamed to say I did not.... ]

Posted on June 24, 2007 at 10:03 AM. Category: Red Letter Days.

Friday June 22, 2007


We set off on a very early ferry and in consequence we hit Honfleur at just the right time for lunch; I had been meaning to stop there after my friend Peter recommended it, and it was just as lovely as he had described. Given the terrible rain storms of late we were lucky to be able to sit outside for lunch - I had the Soup de Poisson and George a sort of regional crostade. This is a view of the harbour, showing the restaurants on the far side:


So picturesque it will have to speak for itself:

MeinHonfleur.jpg GeorgeinHonfleur.jpg


Local inhabitant shares our lunch:


Posted on June 22, 2007 at 4:12 PM. Category: France.

Sunday June 17, 2007

Bound to be Beautiful

Yesterday was the monthly Creative Fibres meeting; it was a workshop day: "Make a Book" - all about book binding. MyBook.jpg My Father always wanted to have a go at this but was put off when he read about it, as it implied you needed a lot of specialised equipment. I guess, in a way, you do, otherwise you have to make compromises, and stick (no pun intended) with very simple books. Anyway, Chrisy and Diana put together a great workshop for us, during which we all made a simple book, (my finished book on the right). They do not normally teach crafts to hobbyists, but run a business [Bound to be Beautiful] as specialist book binders. At the end of the workshop they talked about more complex book construction methods, and we had a chance to look at the lovely books made or repaired by Chrisy and Diana.

Here is the sequence of the day. Much of what we did was concentrating on keeping glue off the work - or at least off the parts where it was not intended to go! Scroll through, and click on the preview image to see it in the viewing pane.

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Folding and cutting the paper to make the pages.
Folding and cutting the paper to make the pages.
Paper is cut with a smooth bladed knife; the final fold is not cut.
A bradawl or heavy needle is used to make holes before sewing together the eight folded pages.
The pages are sewn with two outer (thicker) coloured end papers, and a strip of "fraynot".
Finishing the sewing, with a knot inside, and the ends neatly frayed.
Trimming the edges with a scalpel.
Attaching the mill board book covers with a coloured buckram spine; the spine is carefully spaced to match the thickness of the pages, using a spacer.
Pasting the decorative coloured paper onto the book cover.
Weighting the book to allow the glue to set; this is done throughout the procedures.
Pasting the end papers to set the pages into the covers.
Closing the book onto the sticky end papers.
Nipping the book for 10 seconds in a press.
Examples of finished books from "Bound to be Beautiful".

I am moderately enthused by all this, and would like to do more. In my usual fashion, though, I would like to craft my way through stuff I already have, whereas it's clear that to get a really good result you need to use the right materials. Maybe I'm not quite so interested in a really good result as such, but at the same time I feel I can't dismiss the many years of studying and experience that people like Chrisy and Diana have spent to become masters. Still - experimentation and innovation is everything for the amateur.

So yesterday was a very full day, as I had to bolt out of the class with 40 minutes to get home, change, and catch a train into London for the flamenco evening at the Barbican. I am expecting a quieter time of it today.....

Posted on June 17, 2007 at 10:31 AM. Category: Crafts.

King Prawn

I have just returned home from London on the last train of the evening.

Robert had got tickets at the Barbican to see a famous (flamboyant, sexy, gravel voiced) flamenco singer Diego "El Cigala" [various translated as "the gypsy" (wrongly?), "the little prawn" (owing to his height, it said), "King Prawn" (the evening's program), and "Norway lobster" (Altavista Babelfish)]. Prawn or lobster - he was great - singing both traditional gypsy flamenco, along with music with a Cuban flavour, which is apparently what brought him to more international attention outside Spain.

The evening's opener was the Martin Lubenov Orkestar, a line-up of young musicians from Bulgaria and the Balkans. This band combined elements of rumba, tango, gypsy swing, and jazz. Here's the best picture I could get of them (just to say "I was there"):


The performance was part of the Barbican's excellent festival of gypsy music. I think that all day they had been running flamenco lessons as part of their "family days", and in the foyer before the performance there were "Freestage" performances. We caught one of them, which had us puzzling all evening as to their nationality. Anyway, I now think they may have been: "Romani Rad - London's most celebrated Polish Romany ensemble performing wild wedding music and traditional songs". Here are some more pictures of moderately poor quality due to low lighting, but not quite so much due to my usual camera shake; in consequence it does give a great sense of their energy and movement.



Posted on June 17, 2007 at 12:35 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

Friday June 15, 2007

Bear necessities

This morning a (out of print) book arrived from Amazon marketplace. It cheered me up no end - it was another bear making book by Julia Jones (Favourite Bears to make and treasure). I haven't made a bear for a while but just looking at them makes me feel Good.
Bears are like that.

Early German.jpg Early Germanside_detail.jpg

This is one I made earlier; he's called Heisenberg.

Posted on June 15, 2007 at 5:01 PM. Category: Oddments and stray thoughts.

Sunday June 10, 2007

Bearing gifts.

George returned from his week in Beijing this afternoon. He was very tired but it sounded like he had a fabulous time. Here is a rather nice (in my opinion) Shishi ornament, which was a gift for all conference attendees:


He came back with some jolly nice gifts for me, (and everyone else), unable to resist the bargain prices. He chose some wonderfully thin (I use that word rather then "fine" which is open to misinterpretation) silk to use for dolls clothes - made me want to make some right away - and a pair of embroidered slippers. I also stole one of the bracelets he had intended for Deborah; I will bequeath it to her in my will (hopefully not to be enacted too soon!).

Here is my inevitable cat souvenir - actually I like it a lot:


Posted on June 10, 2007 at 9:58 PM. Category: Oddments and stray thoughts.

Thursday June 7, 2007

Tiger's eye

I have started work on Tobias. Yes, I know I have a few other things to work on but....


I started (conventionally) with the back and was very puzzled at the lack of instructions about the exciting zig-zag chart. After applying a lot of brain power I realised that the back is plain - or rather has stripes and texture - but no zig-zags. So I then decided to knit the front first (more exciting). Once finished I expect I will pack it all away - the challenge will be over. [I am a bit better at knitting finishing stuff I make as presents though, so maybe not.]

I had to back a few rows as I made some mistakes; I was watching TV and found it fascinating. It was "Mary Queen of Shops" and it was all about turning around the fortunes of a "ladies dress shop" in our local village. It was a great program and I really hope the shop survives. I have to say that although I am its exact target market, it is not my sort of shop - I am too cheap - but I will be venturing in next time I am in the village (which will be tomorrow in fact).

I have not had to venture much further than the local fish shop (I like fish) ever since George has been away. However he returns from China at the weekend and I need to get some real food (not fish). He has been attending a conference - today apparently he did tourist things - the Great Wall. I don't really envy him though, hearing about his struggles with jet lag and humidity, (potent super heroes in my experience); and anyway - I like fish.

Posted on June 7, 2007 at 11:17 PM. Category: Knitting.

Saturday June 2, 2007

Dates in history

Notable occasions for this date are: the Queen's coronation in 1953 and the US release of Sgt Pepper in 1967. Very nearly (June 3rd) on the very day itself, Edward VIII married Wallis Simpson, in 1937...... and .... George's Mother came into the world.

So this year it's a special "0", and, yes - I'm sorry Sheila - your birthday is now a date in history.

I'm not sure what kind of a birthday she had - but the rest of us had a great time, spending a lovely sunny day in her garden and being treated to a fantastic cold buffet meal - perfect - o and did I mention cake?

George's sister has just acquired 2 puppies - irresistible - here they are - the usual variety of border collie/springer spaniel cross - Freddie and Daisy:

puppies1.jpg puppies2.jpg


Posted on June 2, 2007 at 7:05 PM. Category: Days Out.